Adventures of a Transplated Gardener- Ginny Stibolt

Ginny Stibolt with a pile of mulch.  Typical!

Ginny's Garden Log

The main purpose of this log was to expand on the gardening adventures that Ginny wrote about in her Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns, but now she writes at The GreenGardeningMatters blog.

Current postings and other posts to Ginny's Garden Log Meadow page 

This is the Seventeenth postings page (from 9/22/10 to 1/17/11). Topics on this page include: lawn reform, frost on broccoliHappy New Year!, solstice, woodcock, honored, Torreya field trip, green gifts, cool season salad, win book, Scott, empty rain barrels, JCA teensmangroves, H2O Blog Action Day, Florida friendlyprovenance, feedback.

lawn reform coalition badge1/17/11 The Lawn Reform Coalition Website is now a Blog! 15 months ago the Lawn Reform Coalition launched a website filled with alternatives to the conventional, overly perfect and super-sized American lawn. Now, we’re a BLOG with our resource pages, but also more news.  I’m your Florida rep and would love to hear your lawn stories.

The Coalition is not against lawns where they can be easily grown, and we present ideas on how to care for them sustainably and without poisons. Some of our members from the arid western states are indeed opposed to lawns, because there they need continuous life-support to grow at all.  So tune in to get some good ideas or let me know if you have a sustainable lawn story that you might want to present as a guest blogger.  

GET IN THE LOOP: Subscribe to our blog"Like" us on Facebook, contribute photos to our Flickr group, and download one of our attractive badges to your website or blog.

Grass isn't always greener...

Frost on the broccoli winter 11.  Photo by Stibolt

1/14/2011 Frost on the Broccoli Brrr! It's cold here in northern Florida and has been for a couple of weeks. There's a skim of ice on the pond out front, which is unusual here because commonly cold snaps are interrupted by warm spells.  We had 80-degree weather for Christmas two years ago, for instance.

Sugar snap peas in winter. Photo by Stibolt

The broccoli will be fine, but the sugar snap pea season is probably over--the vines are green, but the pea pods have turned brown.

Hundreds of small (and not so small) birds have been gathering every day in our non-poisoned yard, because there is plenty for them to eat.

Listen to my latest podcast on ecosystem gardening.  As you design your garden spaces, be sure to consider the surrounding areas as well, so the bug predators have good habitat.  It helps to have Mother Nature on your side--she has powerful tools. 

An assortment of lettuces and chard in Ginny's garden. Photo by Stibolt

12/30/2010 Happy New Year! If you, like millions of other folks, have made a resolution to eat healthier this year, then listen to my podcast on growing winter vegetables, because eating freshly picked produce from your own yard goes a long way to making that healthful diet a reality. 

Don't my greens look tempting? 
They're easy to grow and so good for you. >>

Two books that I mentioned are "Vegetable Gardening in Florida" by James Stevens and "The New Square-Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. There are many others, of course, but James Stevens' book lets Floridians know when to plant stuff and what won't work in Florida. Mel Bartholomew's enthusiasm for planting the most stuff in the least amount of space with the least amount of work provides us all with ideas for more efficient gardening.  Also, here's a vegetable article I wrote 2 years ago: Grow More Veggies in 2009: Kids Can Help

So have a happy, healthful, and greener new year!

American holy Ilex opaca phot by stibolt

12/21/10 Happy Winter Solstice!  I arose at 2:50am to see the total eclipse of the moon. I donned my heavy bathrobe and stepped out into the clear, brisk evening. The moon looked wonderful basking in the earthshine with only the slimmest sliver of sunlight on the right side. The barred owls filled the night with so much hooting that our back yard sounded like a jungle. I could see Orion and several meteors shot across the sky. 

Hollies have played an important role in pagan and religious winter holidays. I posted Winter Solstice and Hollies over on the Florida Native Plant Society's blog. A couple of years ago I posted Holly, Ivy, Poinsettias and more… here. 

And a Merry Christmas to all!

Woodcock--photo from wiki-commons

12/15/90 A Woodcock! Last night as we were finishing dinner, I saw an animal rooting around in the yard, but because it was getting dark I couldn't figure what it was--a squirrel without a tail? a bunny digging a hole?? It was not too far from the house, but with binoculars I could see that it was a woodcock! My husband had seen it earlier in the week down by the lake, but thought it was a shore bird.

American woodcocks (Scolopax minor), sometimes called timberdoodles, are nocturnal birds about 11" long and have short legs compared to shore birds. They are well camouflaged and rarely seen. According to, these birds look for damp spaces in young forests with open areas. Our property provides perfect habitat for woodcocks.  There is a wooded area along one side of our property in a natural drainage area from the pond out front down to the lake out back. This area is a shallow ravine about 40' wide and 450' long with mostly mature sweet gum and pine trees growing there with an understory of palmettos and ink berry and several types of ferns growing as groundcover. Then our un-poisoned lawn provides open space with plenty of worms and grubs for all the birds, woodcocks included. 

Much of their habitat has disappeared over the years. It pleases me that our property management techniques can provide this much-needed habitat.  

12/9/10 "Sustainable Gardening for Florida" was chosen as one of seven titles on Carole Brown's Ecosystem Gardening Holiday Resource Guide. What an honor to be included with such an esteemed group of environmental authors.  What's even more exciting is that Carole lives in Pennsylvania and has a large nation-wide audience. 

Grizzled mantid. photo by Stibolt

12/4/10 I documented a recent Florida Native Plant Society field trip to Torreya State Park, which is west of Tallahassee on the shores of the Apalachicola River.  Parts 1 & 2 have been posted over on the FNPS blog site.  Led by Florida plant guru Gil Nelson, it was a great day for the 25 FNPS members not only for the lessons on plants, but we learned about cool bugs as well. 

This ancient-looking and well disguised bug is a grizzled mantid, a relative of the more common praying mantis. It's a wonder that anyone would have spotted it 
because it was so well camouflaged. It sat still while several of us took its picture.  >>

11/29/10 After Black Friday, comes Green Gift Monday! (Green Gift Podcast)

The Nature Conservancy reminds us that we might want to "Think Green" when giving gifts this season with their Green Gift Monday. Over on the Florida Native Plant Society blog we've posted a series of Florida specific ideas for gifts that will help green causes and help you pocketbook, too! If you have other green gift ideas, please leave a comment.

I hope that you'll be able to take the time during the holiday crunch to take a walk in your garden or park to thank Mother Nature for her gifts to us. 

Salad stuff from Ginny's garden. Photo by Stibolt

11/23/10 I'm thankful that the cool season harvests have begun. I made an eclectic salad yesterday with these vegetables that I harvested from our gardens. Starting at the bottom left: rosemary, Florida betony roots, big daddy peppers, California wonder peppers, large-leaf Italian basil, green ice lettuce, Lollo Rosso (red) lettuce, meadow garlic, Egyptian walking onion greens, and Oregon sugar pod peas.

Okay so not everything is a cool weather crop, but the lettuce, garlic, and the sugar peas are.  We still have a peck of peppers to pick and bunches of basil to turn into pesto before frost hits and the rosemary, meadow garlic, and walking onions are perennials, but the others are just getting started. So this feels like a new season.

There are two native plants in this group. The meadow garlic, an onion relative that I've written about here: A Native Herb has Earned an Honored Place Amongst the Mediterranean Species, and it's recently sprouted after being dormant during the summer months. Florida betony or rattlesnake weed (Stachys floridana) is a problem weed in the mint family with this weird root that looks like a rattle from a rattlesnake or a bug larva. The roots add a nutty/radishy flavor to the salad. I have plenty if someone has a good market for these. Here's an information sheet on them.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I wish you bountiful cool-weather harvests.

"Native Plant Landscaping for Florida's Wildlife" by Craig Huegel.

11/18/10 Win "Native Plant Landscaping for Florida's Wildlife" by Craig Huegel. The contest runs until December 1 and all you do to enter is to leave a comment on the Florida Native Plant Society's blog. Two copies will be given away thanks to University Press of Florida.  Enter for yourself or to win a holiday gift for a gardening friend.  While you're on the blog, check out other environmentally-friendly books to purchase. 

This book, beautifully illustrated with color photos throughout, covers the specific needs of various types of wildlife, more than 50 types of native plants with photos and descriptions, as well as landscaping ideas and pallets for various types of habitat such as dunes and scrubs, prairies, sandhills, flatwoods and hammocks.

11/6/10 I wrote to our governor-elect, Rick Scott. He's asking for money saving ideas in 150 words or less here:  Send Your Ideas.

I sent two messages with these ideas: 1) mow roadsides less often & plant with wildflowers. 2) Replace state-maintained lawns with meadows and/or trees to save on fertilizer, pesticides, & mowing. 3) Even though Amendment 4 did not pass, the state can save money by providing incentives for developers to reconfigure under-used areas, like small town centers and abandoned shopping centers, because infrastructures like roads, schools, utilities are already in place. Developing wild areas costs more money in the long run.  I even offered him a copy of my book for sustainable landscaping ideas.

So can you think of $$-saving, but environmentally sound ideas for Florida?

The dune sunflower plant in Ginny's mailbox garden.  Photo by Stibolt

11/3/10 East Coast Dune Sunflower: an appreciation, a post I wrote for the Florida Native Plant Society, provides information on this easy-care plant and highlights some of our best online resources for Florida plant information.  These reliable resources are important because while it's great to plant more natives in your yard, it's much better if they actually survive.  Learning more about the plant requirements and its endemic range will help ensure your native plant green thumb.   

I purchased a dune sunflower plant this spring at a gardenfest and planted it in a hot dry area out next to our mailbox (as shown in the photo). To say that it's done well is an understatement.  What a joy!

The last drops from a rain barrel. Photo by Stibolt

10/31/10 Scary Halloween! Spooks and ghouls are one thing, but NO RAIN in October, now that's scary for gardeners!  Just when we're trying to start our cool-weather crops, we get a record-setting driest October since they started keeping records. The 30-year average for Jacksonville in October is 3.86 inches. (Here's the NOAA link.) And it's been hot, too.  

Our six rain barrels are almost empty; only a few drops left and only if the barrel is tipped forward.  So what's a green gardener to do?  In our case we have more un-potable water available from the irrigation system pumped from the lake out back.  The water level in the 110-acre, spring-fed lake is controlled by a dam.  

We've been irrigating once a week throughout this month, but that's not enough for my tender seedlings, so I've been hand watering with rain barrel water.  Now I can fill the watering cans at a faucet that is attached to the irrigation system.  

We've used up the rain barrel water only once before since we've been here.  We used to have seven rain barrels, but since the oldest one cracked earlier this year, we're down to six.  Maybe with another 55 gallons, we might have made it through this dry period, but probably not.  (Update 11/3: We received 1/3 of an inch of rain yesterday and more is on the way.  The barrels are about half full--Yippee!!)

At the end of an afternoon of pulling a digging, 15 bags of invasive plants were removed from this historic property.  Photo by Stibolt

10/28/10  Kudos for the 12 teens who worked with 6 members of the Florida Native Plant Society this last weekend to remove invasive non-native plants at Walter Jones Historical Park, on the eastern bank of the St. Johns River in the Mandarin section of Jacksonville. 

Search and destroy! This was the mission for four hours on a Sunday afternoon, carried out by a group of 12 teens and 6 members of the Ixia chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, covering Duval, Clay & Nassau Counties. The teens were members of the Jacksonville Teens Volunteer program, which is sponsored by the Jewish Community Alliance (JCA), and earned four hours of community service, plus they learned a lot about invasive plants. Job well done!

Read Removing Invasives in Mandarin: a Team Effort on the Florida Native Plant Society's blog.  

Red mangrove prop roots create excellent habitat for fish, crabs and birds.  Photo by Stibolt

10/25/10 Florida's Marvelous Mangroves was posted on the Florida native Plant Society's blog as a follow-up to the water resources article.  Here in northeastern Florida, we are limited to red and black mangroves.  The red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) grow farthest out in the water and are the plants that most people think of when you mention mangroves.  Tangles of prop roots act as stilts and increase stability as well as capturing sediments from the surrounding water.  The red mangroves are sometimes called the walking mangrove. 

Black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) grow pneumatophores, straw-like extensions from its roots, to supply needed oxygen to the roots in the persistently wet soil that it needs.   If you have some shoreline to manage, try some mangroves to protect your property.

Know why water beads up like this?  Hint: it's not because it attracts photographers.  Photo by Stibolt

October 15th It's Blog Action Day and the topic this year is WATER.  As part of this action, I posted two articles.  One here on Water Science for Gardeners explains the chemistry of water and how and why gardeners can use this information to be more successful in their gardeners.  And here is the podcast Water Science.

The other article, over on the Florida Native Plant Society Blog, called We ALL live in a Watershed shows some of the best water resources in Florida and explains some of the problems in paradise.

More than 4000 people have also registered their blogs for this topic and you can see them here Blog Action Day 2010

Florida Friendly Landscaping header. Used with permission

10/13/10 Florida Friendly? I conducted an interview with Mike Thomas Ph.D. P.E. who works over in Tallahassee for DEP.  The interview and a response is posted over on the Florida Native Plant Society blog.  His answers and the various comments make for interesting reading.  You can also download the 104-page book for free to pass out to your HOA or local community bureaucrats.  Let me know what you think and be sure to comment.

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slime mold  photo by Stibolt

Because it was so wet this summer, you may have noticed weird, amorphous shaped "things" growing over your mulch, soil or other objects touching the soil. Sometimes it's yellow as you can see in my photo, other times it's tan or even bright pink.  I've recorded a podcast, slime mold, where you'll learn that slime mold is not a fungus and which movie it inspired.

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Friday Oct 15th is Blog Action Day and the topic this year is water.  Tune into Transplanted Gardener for a post called Water Science for Gardeners and on the Florida Native Plant Society for a review of Florida's Fantastic Water Resources.  There will be more than 3,000 bloggers weighing in on this important issue.

One of Ginny's blueberry plants a year and a half later... Photo by Stibolt

9/28/10 Plant Provenance (where plant stock originates) is critical to the success of that plant in your yard.  Here are several recent reminders: 
A Burpee email touting their blueberry plants with an enticing blueberry photo. Don't fall for those Jersey berry plants--they won't do well here. In Florida, we need blueberries that work for Florida's climate. Read my article for more info: To update you on my three Florida blueberry plants: They are doing quite well after a year and a half--see photo of one of them to the left.  It's about two feet tall.  
2) At the Wildflower Symposium on Saturday in Winter Park, Brightman Logan talked about plant provenance as part of his presentation.  Just because a plant is the same species, if it's from northern stock it's unlikely to do well here in Florida.  For example, red maple (Acer rubrum) has a wide range from New England down throughout Florida; the trees from Florida will bloom and leaf out earlier in the season than the northern trees.  So pay attention and purchase only locally-grown stock.  For highlights of the symposium, see my post on the Florida Native Plant Society Blog,
3) Bert Cregg of the Garden Professors' Blog started an interesting discussion: Can cultivars be considered native plants?  Be sure to read the further discussion in the comments for his post.  Update: Also read the next professor's post by Holly Scoggins on the same topic.  It's great that this issue is getting some much-needed attention.

And speaking of provenance, listen to my recent podcast on Native Plants.  As promised, here is the link to the Florida Exotic Plant Pest Council's website where you can find a list of plants that have become invasive here in Florida.

Even though a lot of us are transplants to Florida from more northerly climes, we humans are more flexible than most plants and are doing very well in Florida.  Thank you very much!

9/22/10 Over the years I have received plenty of positive feedback on my work, but this one posted the other day, in response to my post on garden rant, makes me proudest:

"Ginny, Thank you so much for your blog, articles, and podcasts! I'm a Navy Nurse, currently deployed in Afghanistan, where all I see is tan desert...missing green! Your content is keeping me sane, and I can't wait to get back to my Orange Park home and into the garden. Tammy W..."

Tammy, thank you for your service!  When you get back home, please send me an email. 

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